When We Were Kings: Darryl Klugh reflects on the ’99 SeasonBy Semaj Marsh
Published: June 19, 2009
On every championship roster, there is usually one player who emerges as the undeniable team leader; someone who earns the respect and trust of his coaching staff and fellow teammates. For the 1999 North Carolina A&T football team, that leader was none other than senior free safety Darryl Klugh. As four year starter in the Aggies’ secondary, Klugh possessed bone-crushing hitting ability, great intelligence, and a knack for making big plays. During the Aggies’ march towards the mythical black college football national championship, Klugh served almost as a player-coach on the field, directing traffic before the snap and motivating everyone around him to work harder. He finished the season ranked second on the defense with 84 tackles, while also adding three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. His play on the gridiron was also matched by his accomplishments in the classroom. Recently we caught up with the former team captain– who now resides in the Washington, DC area – and talked to him about that magical season and the impact it would have on his life forever.
Bluedeathvalley.com: First of all, can you believe that 10 years have now passed since that unforgettable season?
Darryl Klugh: “Not only has time flown by, but I was just talking to my little brother four or five years ago, saying that it would be a long time before the ‘99 team would celebrate our ten year anniversary. And the next thing you know, here we are.”
Heading into that season, did you guys think that you were really a championship-caliber team?
Darryl Klugh: “Well, that’s the thing. For most of my years at A&T we were always a pretty good team and we had winning records. A couple of seasons we even got off to some pretty impressive starts. But I’ll tell you, there were always a few hurdles that we had most of my career. The biggest one was beating FAMU and deciphering their run-and-shoot style offense. And the second one was just manning up against South Carolina State (laughs).”
So at what point during the 1999 season did you first start to think that it could be a special year?
Darryl Klugh: “I would have to say after the Elon game. When we lost to Elon it was devastating, but we used that defeat to fuel the rest of our season. As soon as we got back the next day had an all-live practice – hitting and everything – right after the loss. It seemed crazy at the time and we were all complaining and disgruntled about it, but I think we held on to that anger and toughness for the rest of the season and we just went out and smashed everybody else on the schedule.”
That sounds like a classic Bill Hayes motivational technique. What was it like playing for him back then?
Darryl Klugh: “We knew Bill Hayes was an icon and a legend even back then. Playing for a guy like that, you could feel his legendary status just from dealing with him. He taught us just so much about life. We still discuss Coach Hayes to this day. There’s not a player on that team that shouldn’t be able to finish one of Coach Hayes’ quotes. I mean, we do it all the time. I just came back from a wedding with three dudes that played for him and we had a good 15 to 20 minute chuckle about Coach Hayes. It was mostly his strength as a man and his ability to lead other men that was so amazing. There are so many Hayes’ quotes that, to this day, we still giggle over.”
What was it like to be a key member of the Blue Death Defense back then?
Darryl Klugh: “We just had so much pride in our defense. There was just so much pride. Man, we were running around saying that our defense was our offense, because all we wanted to do was score. We told the offense ‘you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to score any points but just don’t let the other team score [on a turnover]. Three and outs? We don’t care. I mean, you know how a lot of defenses today say that they want to get off the field? Well, we wanted to stay out there. Because we knew eventually that if we stayed out there, in a few more plays, we were going to get a fumble. Especially the guys in the secondary. We had so many rough-house dudes up front, we were always telling them to ‘just let ‘em throw the ball sometimes’ (laughs). ‘Just let ‘em throw the ball so we can get it.’ Everyone we had out there on defense was ready to make a big play.”
Who were some of the guys on the team back then who made that defense so dominant?
Darryl Klugh: “Any time you have Dwaine Carpenter on one side and Sammy Rogers on the other side as an outside linebacker … and we lined up in a blitz package – man, it was just crazy! We would dial up a blitz and just wreck havoc. Sometimes if a play call was slow coming in from the sideline, I would just look around and tell the guys “hey, you know what? We’re going after them on this play.” Our D-line was a big part of it too. We got so much pressure up front with Big Rob (Robert Williams) and Leonard Reliford stopping the run. It was like our pressure in the backfield was just amazing. A lot of times we were actually begging our front line to let the quarterback throw the ball so we could get interceptions. But right before the quarterback would release the ball and throw that interception, they would get a sack. We were joking of course, but we’d go up to them and be like “man, just let him throw it! Just let him throw the ball sometimes.” (laughs)
As the free safety you were really the quarterback of that entire defense. You relayed the calls from the sideline and made sure everyone on the field was in the correct position. Talk a little about your role back then and the extra responsibilities you had.
Darryl Klugh: “Of course, I was a senior that season but I had been in that defense for four years. And not just in the defense, but really a student of the defense. So I knew every play inside and out. And dealing with (Defensive Coordinator Wayne) Hicks, I always put a lot of extra time in our meetings to make sure I was completely comfortable with our game plan and what we wanted to do. I knew what all eleven positions on the defense were supposed to do. So, for instance, if I saw that their offense was going to an unbalanced line I would call it out and have everyone on our defense shift down. Coach Hicks trusted me enough to basically allow me to make that adjustment. I mean, it wasn’t like I just called audibles the whole game but there were certain situations where I would see a formation and tell the defense ‘hey, we’re going to do this’ or ‘hey, it’s going to go down like this’, and everyone on the field would be like ‘yep, let’s do it; I’m with it.’”
So I would assume that you and Coach Hicks had a pretty close relationship, on and off the field.
Darryl Klugh: “Yeah we did … because he saw the work that I put in. It wasn’t just like I stepped on campus and said ‘I’m running the defense.’ Remember, I was there for four years grinding! In the weight room – I was always putting in extra work. And he saw that. It wasn’t like he just said ‘You know what, you’re a free safety and you’re a senior so go ahead and run the defense’. It was more like, ‘I know you’re prepared. I trust the work that you’ve put in, so I know you’re not going to let us down.’ And you have to understand, I was coming off of a stellar junior season. I was coming off a junior year where I had put in major work, so it was really a culmination of all the preparation I had made and all the hard work. It wasn’t like I was the coach’s pet or anything like that. He just saw the work that I put in and he recognized that, he respected it, and he basically said ‘Yo, I can trust you.””
Let’s take a look now at some of the more pivotal games that occurred during that regular season. After the Elon game, you guys came back a few weeks later and faced a very good Hampton team. Many people expected the Pirates to just waltz right into Aggie Stadium and trounce you guys, but things didn’t happen that way. A&T upset Hampton 41-24 that afternoon and really let everyone in the MEAC know the Aggies were a team to be reckoned with.
Darryl Klugh: “I remember going into that Hampton game I was almost dehydrated. I was so exhausted that I almost had to get an IV the Thursday before the game. After the Elon loss it was like I was working overtime. I was always in the film room, always working out, always getting ready. So I almost got burned out. I didn’t even practice that week. But when we got on the field for the Hampton game, it was suddenly a surreal feeling because we knew everything that they were going to do. We knew everything that they were getting ready to do and they couldn’t do anything about it! We just knew how to stop everything they had. Another thing that was kind of wild about that season was, except for maybe one or two opponents, everybody we played against seemed so much weaker than us. We just seemed so much stronger than everyone else! For instance, normally I wouldn’t want to run up against a lineman and take on a lineman who was trying to block me. But there were times during that season that I was like ‘I don’t care if their tackle in pulling; I’ll smash him.’ (laughs) There were guys who outweighed me by 80 pounds but we looked at them like they were soft. I don’t know if it was just confidence or it was just sheer strength. But I remember back in that Hampton game they lined up and they maybe got about two yards on a play, and then on the next play they lined up and said “S.O.S” and immediately our whole defense looked at each other like ‘Are they serious?’ Because we knew what was coming next. That very next play they had a fumble and B.J (Little) scooped it up and almost ran it back to the house. (laughs)”
Another memorable contest that season was the one that took place down in Daytona Beach against Bethune-Cookman. You guys needed a pass interference call on fourth down and a field goal in the final seconds to knock off the Wildcats 19-18. Describe what it was like to survive that epic battle.
Darryl Klugh: “Now that was a good team; I can’t even front. They didn’t get a lot of respect but they were always a torn in our side. They were the MEAC’s best kept secret back then. They had this quarterback named Pa’Tel Troutman and a few other guys who were really explosive. When we got on the field with them we knew it was going to be a tough match-up. They had a crazy coach and some amazing athletes. You’re talking about guys who didn’t care – they just wanted to compete. It was like they had no fear against us. We couldn’t believe it, but these guys were really talking to us like we weren’t one of the top teams in the MEAC at that point. And it wasn’t like they were just some slack dudes. This guy Pa’Tel Troutman may have been the best player that I ever played against in college football because of his ability to threaten the defense.”
Was Bethune still running the Wyatt-bone offense at that time?
Darryl Klugh: “Yeah they were running the Wyatt-bone, but they just had so many weapons – on the outside and inside. That’s why the game was so close even though we mopped up everybody else we played that year. That game was won by a blocked extra point, I believe. It was close the whole time and we never felt comfortable until the end. I remember that there were quite a few big plays and odd occurrences that took place in that game. That might have been the most competitive, hard-fought game that I have every played in.”
A couple of weeks later you faced another big challenge when the mighty Florida A&M Rattlers and their vaunted “Gulf Coast Offense” rolled into town. The previous year FAMU dominated you guys 51-12 and there was some serious bad blood between the two programs. This was billed as a matchup between the two remaining undefeated teams in the MEAC and it would decide who would take the conference title. What was that game like?
Darryl Klugh: “Even though we were concentrating on our other opponents throughout the season, we always keep Florida A&M in the back of our minds. Florida A&M had been the bane of our existence all my career. We had never known how to completely shut down their offense. So that year we installed a completely different defensive package, just for them. It was like we broke the code. And we kind of knew it going in. Now imagine if you are going to go up against an opponent for the fourth time. And the three previous times you kind of felt them out but you didn’t really know how to stop them. But in this one week period you’ve got this new secret sauce. You’re anxious to try it out because you think it’s the one that’s going to work. That’s how we were feeling the whole week heading into that game. You know, everybody was so focused, so in tuned. Coach Hayes was even coming over to help coach the defense in practice. Our film sessions were longer, our scouting report meetings were longer – everything was longer because we had installed this whole new package. So on game day, we just came out like gangbusters. I mean we literally broke the code. A lot of it was due to our personnel too, because we had Dwaine Carpenter who could play linebacker and safety. He was more like a hybrid linebacker-safety. So we moved him back and we just allowed our front four to do more pass rushing. We didn’t blitz as much, we just did more coverage. And man, we locked them down. I would say, after about the first three plays of the game we were like ‘Oh, this is it! Yeah, this is it!’ And after that, it was nothing.”
You had a big fumble recovery in that game, right?
Darryl Klugh: “Yeah, and I had a few big hits in that game also. And that was another thing – they had a lot of weapons. They had (Jacquay) Nunnally, (Cainon) Lamb, and another dude – I can’t remember his name, but even against them we felt like we were so much stronger. I had a couple of knockout hits that season and I always remembered feeling so much stronger than those other dudes. Everybody else on our defense felt that way too. We discussed it out on the field, like ‘these guys are weak out here!’ So now, we broke the code, we felt stronger than them, and so you can just imagine the amount of confidence we had out on the field at that time. It was like ‘I don’t care if their center comes running up at me. I’m gonna bust his face mask open … and I don’t care what they audible to, because we are already a step ahead of them.’ So it was a foregone conclusion that we were going to win. It was just a matter of who was going to make the big play.”
Well, I’m sure you must have felt a great sense of redemption after that game. You finally got your revenge against Florida A&M and you guys were now MEAC champions. Describe your feeling after that victory.
Darryl Klugh: “That was the crowning moment. It was like, ‘Ok, we beat FAMU so now the sky is the limit.’ We had just toppled our arch-nemesis. And in the game after that – I believe it was South Carolina State – our defense was having a conversation on the field. It was me, Dwaine Carpenter, Von Keith, B.J. Little and maybe somebody else, and around the second quarter we were just talking on the field about who was going to get player of the game. We were like: ‘Carp, you gotta come on with it. B.J., you need to get a few more tackles so you can go ahead and get player of the game.’ We knew we were going to beat them, it was just a matter of who was going to make the big play to win player of the game and we were encouraging each other. ‘You make the big play; no you make the big play. Alright cool. Now go ahead and make this pick and you can solidify it.’ We weren’t using this word back then but if we did, our ‘swag’ would have been on a thousand trillion. Our ‘swag’ was on a hundred thousand trillion back then. Any where we went, regardless of who we played, it didn’t matter.”
Welcome back to our exclusive conversation with former A&T football great, Darryl Klugh. As a senior free safety on the 1999 football team, Klugh helped the Aggies achieve unprecedented gridiron glory. That year, the Aggies would win the MEAC title with an undefeated record, capture the first playoff victory in school history and eventually become crowned as the mythical champions of black college football. In part two of this interview, Klugh provides more candid insight into that unforgettable season and what his life has been like since his playing career ended.
Bluedeathvalley.com: After shutting down FAMU’s vaunted offense in the final home game of the season, A&T captured the MEAC championship and finally began to receive some national acclaim. As a player on that 1999 team, describe what it was like to be in Greensboro during that period?
Darryl Klugh: “Man, it’s crazy because I can only contrast it to what it’s like right now. But back then there weren’t even a lot of people of the football team who pledged fraternities. That’s how much clout we had – people didn’t even look at any other things for social outlets. It was like we were our own social outlet, everywhere we went. You had dudes back then who wouldn’t want to put on real clothes when they went out. We just wanted to put on our A&T sweats and go out. Like: “you see this A&T football logo on my shirt? That’s all I need. I don’t need to dress up and get fly; I’ll go the club or the bar in just my A&T sweats.’”
1999 was actually the year when Chancellor Renick first arrived at A&T. I remember he was very supportive of what the football team had accomplished that season and even hung a large congratulatory sign outside of Cooper Hall.
Darryl Klugh: “Yeah, I remember that. And from my recollection, Renick had a lot of enthusiasm towards the football team and athletics in general. I mean, let’s be honest, athletics are very important. Not only as a revenue generator, but in terms of enrollment and marketing as well. And so for him to just be coming to A&T, our MEAC championship was a great tool because he could use the momentum from athletics to help carry out any other goals that he might have had. And man, I remember just feeling so confident back then. I mean, just imagine that people would be getting ready to go to the mall and they’d spend all day ironing their nice shirts, and we’d be like “nah man, A&T sweats is all you need!”
A&T would go on to defeat South Carolina State in the regular season finale to preserve your undefeated record in the MEAC. Then you found out that as a reward for your great season you would face No. 1 ranked Tennessee State in the first round of the 1-AA playoffs. What was your initial reaction to that draw?
Darryl Klugh: “Tennessee State who? Didn’t matter. Just tell us when and where. We play them next week? Didn’t matter. And honestly it was even better because they’re closer. We wanted to play them. I believe FAMU was actually ranked No. 7 so we figured we might get a chance to play them again, but the only thing bad about facing Tennessee State was that we had to knock off another black college team. That was our big deal – that they put two black colleges against each other. But then we were all like, ‘Cool, that’ll work.’ When we found out we drew Tennessee State, nobody on our team was upset. We were just like ‘Word? Tennessee State? Well, just go ahead and line ‘em up.’”
When you finally locked horns with Tennessee State that next week in Nashville, we saw very quickly that your confidence was indeed justified. Talk a little bit about that historic contest and how you were able to take control despite being in enemy territory.
Darryl Klugh: “I can recall quite a few plays from that game, but the salient play – and this is kind of legendary and emotional for us even to this day – was when Mo Smith, who entered the game with a bad upper leg injury and had his hamstring tapped over the top of his uniform pants, broke free for a 60-yard run. He was limping the whole time but still outrunning people. Man, we were looking at that play like, ‘wow!’ That was just an epic moment for us. I mean, everyone on the sideline and even the players on the field, just had a look of disbelief on their face. It was like, ‘this guy is really a man amongst boys our here.’ The dude was grimacing with his leg tapped up, yet he was still stiff-arming people and out-running defenders. It was amazing.”
Defensively, you guys had a number of big plays in that game as well. I remember he Aggies took out their starting quarterback – I believe he had a separated shoulder when Blue Death gone done with him – and you guys also had a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown. That had to be one of A&T’s best defensive performances of the year.
Darryl Klugh: “Yeah, there were a lot of key plays – especially that blocked punt for a touchdown. I remember Sam (Rogers) or somebody blocked it and I think it was Temell Purket who fell on it. And it was so crazy because they ran back to the sideline and everyone was arguing with each other about who got the chance to make the big play (laughs). It wasn’t a matter of if a big play was going to be made; it was just a matter of who was going to make it and who was going to be able to get to the ball first .We knew (TSU) wasn’t going to get to the ball first; it was a matter of which one of us was going to get to the ball first. There was a lot of levity during that whole season and after that blocked punt we were all kind of joking with each other like, “Ah, you took my touchdown!.”
There was one particular moment in that contest, when you guys began to pull away in the second half, that the A&T marching band started playing the song “No Play In GA (a.k.a We Ready)”. That was sort of like the unofficial theme song for the 1999 team and once they heard the song the whole sideline just went crazy. I remember even some of the players on the field started grooving. That was quite a scene.
Darryl Klugh: “To this day, I still get goose bumps when I hear that song. Oh man. Even back in that South Carolina State game – I don’t know if you remember it, but that was the first time ever that we wore all gold uniforms. Me, (Dwaine) Carpenter and someone else were at midfield doing the captains’ coin toss. The band wasn’t even playing the song yet, but just as we were shaking the South Carolina State captains’ hands, we looked over in the tunnel at Panthers Stadium …and suddenly the band started playing that song and our teammates just started going crazy yelling, ‘We Ready, We Ready’. Our players were all bouncing and rocking and we just looked back at South Carolina State’s captains and we were like, ‘Uh, looks like our boys are ready over there. See ya in a few minutes’ (laughs) The atmosphere and angst and anxiety in the stadium was crazy at that point! Just imagine that you’re doing the coin toss and shaking hands, and you look over and see your dogs barking like crazy! Like ‘Let me at ‘em! Unleash this chain from me!’ After that, we just looked at the South Carolina State players and said, ‘Y’all are in trouble.’”
A&T would eventually upset Tennessee State 24-10 and capture the first-ever playoff win in school history. The next week, however, you traveled up to Youngstown, Ohio where things didn’t fair quite as well. If you can, please talk about that loss and just what went wrong against Youngstown State.
Darryl Klugh: “It was like we were a pickup truck … that got blindsided by a Mack truck. The Youngstown situation was an unknown unknown. Coming into that game, we did not know what we didn’t know. Now, don’t get me wrong. We were prepared; it wasn’t a lack of our preparation. It wasn’t a lack of our ability. It was just a lack of familiarity with the moment. I think it was just a case of their program being on another level that we didn’t yet understand how to get to. You could sense it as soon as we ran on the field. I remember, one side of their stadium went up about five stories on the home side and the other side, the visitor’s side, is just like high school bleachers. But on the home side they had about 20,000 people, all standing up and screaming. As soon as you run out of the tunnel and you look back and it’s like, ‘Word? All those folks are against us?’ And over there, even their friends heckled you differently. It was like a completely different atmosphere that we weren’t even aware of. It was the first time that season since the Elon game where we felt like we just couldn’t push our opponent around. As the game was going on we were like, ‘Hey, these dudes are kind of strong. Wow, their offense is nice. They mix it up a lot. Oh yeah, I see it now.’ It was obvious that we were somewhat overmatched in terms of the state of our two programs at that time. This was just our first time getting there and (then Youngstown State coach Jim) Tressel has already won another championship since then. He’s gone on to win a 1-A championship since then. But looking back, I think it was good for us as a program to get there so that now we know what to do when we get back.”
Did they seem physically stronger than most of the teams that you played in the MEAC that season?
Darryl Klugh: “Oh definitely. Definitely”
Even in the season-ending loss to Youngstown State, you once again emerged as a defensive standout. If not for all the flying around you did, knocking down passes and making tackles, the score could have probably gotten even worse. Talk a little about your personal performance in that game.
Darryl Klugh: “That’s exactly what it was. Now, let me say that they were a little stronger than the MEAC teams but it wasn’t like we felt completely overmatched. The emotion and energy was there, but it was just more of a situation where the moment was greater than what we were ready for. But even then, I said to myself ‘you know what? I’m going to win these one-on-one battles. I’m going to win all of these one-on-one battles.’ So if you’re in the open field, you’re going down. If you’re in my zone, you’re going down. My assignment is going to be won. I don’t care what the score is; I don’t care what the down and distance is. I’m going to win the individual battles, period. And after the game, I had one of the crowning moments of my career when Tressel walked up to me after the game and said ‘Son, you’re one of the finest free safeties that I’ve seen play.’ And at the time, I was just like ‘yeah … OK … thanks, Coach’ because who is Jim Tressel at that point? I was just like ‘Yeah, Coach. Thanks a lot. I’ve heard that one before. Y’all just smacked us in the face, but thanks a lot for the nice words.’(laughs) But little would I know that a few years later he would be coaching at Ohio State on TV in the (BCS) National Championship game. At that point I was like, ‘Yo, respect due! Respect due! This is the same guy who gave me my props!’”
Speaking of props, how does it feel to be regarded as one of the best free safeties to ever play for A&T:
Darryl Klugh: I’m honored, man. I’m honored and I think that one of the biggest lessons I learned at A&T – along with all the quotes from Coach Hayes – was the value of hard work. I mean, honestly, I wasn’t the fastest dude. Everybody knew that. I wasn’t the biggest dude. Everybody knew that. I was an above-average athlete, but I wasn’t the most athletic guy on the team. You had freaks like Dwaine Carpenter and guys who had bodies like Temell Purket. I wasn’t on that level. I was a good, strong athlete that maximized my potential, and that was due 100 percent to hard work. You can ask anybody who knows me that it was 100 percent hard work. And that helped me later on in life in my career as an engineer. With 100 percent hard work I was able to rise to the top of my profession. In anything I do, I really believe in hard work and that’s what helped me. That alone is a lesson that, for the rest of my life, I’ll be able to use to accomplish my goals.
A lot of people overlooked the fact that you were an excellent student at A&T as well as a star athlete:
Darryl Klugh: “When a lot of people were taking naps, I was doing my school work. When they were in the weight room, I was in the weigh room with them. When they were out there partying, I was out there partying with them. But when they were watching TV, I was in the library or I was in McNair. It was like I was just very efficient with my time-management. College students can spend a lot of down time chilling under the tree or on the wall, doing whatever. And while you’re chilling, that’s cool. But I’ll chill with you when I get back from studying. I really don’t feel like I missed anything in college because I maximized my time management. When my roommate was watching that fuzzy cable in Cooper Hall or eating chicken wings from the dude coming through the dorm selling chicken and the five dollar pizzas, I was on my way going out to McNair. Two o’clock in the morning, when he’s still on the phone chilling, I’m just getting back in from McNair. I really tried to maximize my time so I could get the most out of my day. I really had to.”
So how did those time-management skills and work ethic impact your life after college? What have you been up to since the 1999 season?:
Darryl Klugh: “From a humble standpoint, I’ll just say I’ve done well. I can say that the same prodigious amount of work that I put in as a college football player is on par with the work I’ve put into my professional career. Right now I’m the principal engineer at a major firm. About four out five years ago, I went back and got my masters degree from A&T. Now, let me ask you: what do you think my grade point average would have been if I didn’t have to worry about playing football in college and was just a student? Well, I had a 4.0 in grade school because I didn’t have to worry about football. I graduated in a year and a half of grad school, came out, and at the youngest age possible I was able to get my professional engineering license. I did that at about 26. Then, I got my PNP – which is another major deal in my profession – as just collected a lot of other accolades and certifications and licenses, just to buttress up my experience from a career perspective. And now I’m at a point in my career where I’m way ahead of my time for where most people would expect an electrical engineer to be. So, I guess I’ve kind of beat the game in both aspects. I’ve used a lot of those principles from my college football days and carried them over to my professional life
Are you still living here in North Carolina?
Darryl Klugh: “No, I’m in DC now. I’m not married and I don’t have any kids right now, but I do a lot in the community. I really do. I always try to be a mentor. A friend of mine – Darius Helton – his wife is a school administrator, so I do a lot of mentoring there. I do a lot of other outreach and volunteer stuff. I’m really active in the community; I just don’t have my own kids right now. Another thing is that I have three little brothers. One of them- Raheem Klugh- is actually at A&T now. He doesn’t play ball or anything, but he’s an engineer major and he’s doing very well as a student. Also, my little sister is a rising senior in high school so she’ll be going to A&T next year. I just took her to a college tour at A&T. Then, I’ve got two other younger brothers who are major, major athletes and they’ll probably be going to A&T in the next five years themselves. See, (my family) just know that it works. We know A&T is a place where you can go and turn out to be a successful adult. I’ve seen it work with just the peer group I had; my contemporaries. My little brother saw that and now my sister is seeing that too. Once you see something working, it’s almost like a factory. A&T is like a factory that produces young black professionals.”
As a successful alum and former star player, it most have been difficult to watch the A&T football program fall on such tough times in recent years.
Darryl Klugh: “Yeah, and I think the biggest thing was the negative perception people have of black college programs. I think a lot of coaches probably think that you can just come to a black college and not have to roll up you sleeves and do this nasty, dirty work. I don’t think I ever really had what you would call a ‘player’s coach’. All of the great coaches in college football weren’t really ‘player’s coaches.’ You hate them until you learn to love them. And I don’t know if these kids today hate their coach initially. See, that’s what made Coach Hayes so prominent and successful. It was that the people who made it through his program learned to love him for all the tough love he gave us. And at A&T now, I don’t know if the players are getting that tough love that they need. I don’t want to dare call anyone soft, but they don’t have that fight that I used to see. And I think that’s a direct correlation to the amount of tough love they get. I mean, I don’t want to sound like and elitist and say that my group was superior and you to need to find another Coach Hayes. That’s why I kind of push it more towards tough love. But just think about how mad we were when Coach Hayes made us practice after the Elon game. Think about how many people just wanted to quit at that point and say forget it. But think about how 10 years later our fans now view that as one of the most illustrious seasons in A&T history. Can you imagine how many names we called Coach Hayes behind his back? Do you think we would have said ‘I love Coach Hayes’ at that moment? No! Do you think we felt comfortable living in nice, plush college apartments back then? No. We had tough love and I think that made all the difference.”
Well, this upcoming season A&T will have a new coaching staff led by Alonzo Lee that will be looking to launch a new era of success on the gridiron. If you could give the current A&T football players some final advice what would you say to them?
Darryl Klugh: “First of all, it’s cool to have that coach who’ll kick you around and yell at you and make you run and all that, but homeboy you need to have self motivation. There are three things that I always say that are very underrated and there are three things that many times are overrated. The overrated things are athletic ability and talent and reputation. You can definitely use all those things, but what’s underrated is your ambition, your sacrifice and your discipline. A lot of people can run real fast 40s and bench press however much weight you want and maybe were All-State or All-Conference in high school, but you look at them and just want to say, ‘where is your heart? Where’s your ambition? Where’s your sacrifice? Where’s your discipline?’ And a lot of times, without those three components you fall by the wayside … and not only do you fall, but if your team doesn’t collectively have those three components, your program will fall by the wayside too. Then you end up with world-renowned losing streaks. You end up with no players going to the NFL. You end up with a lack of support from alumni and a lot of outside entities. So, I would tell these current players that – regardless of your talent – if you just embrace ambition, sacrifice and discipline then that’s what will get you over the hump.”